Feeds

ProComp fires duds in MS Media Player broadside

Bigger fish than Real are getting fried

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

The latest broadside from ProComp, or the Project to Promote Competition and Innovation in the Digital Age - the lobby group backed by Microsoft competitors - will make depressing reading for its sponsors. ProComp has contrived to sail through a closely packed convoy, all guns firing, without hitting anything.

The lobby group's latest challenge is based on reports last week that Windows Media Player 8 will be accessible only to Windows XP.

This, ProComp complains, is exactly the kind of anti-competitive bundling which the 1995 Consent Decree was intended to prevent, and formed the core of the DoJ's case.

"If the 'browser war' is at all instructive, it is apparent that Microsoft will be successful in eliminating both Real Network's Real Player and Apple's QuickTime Player as competitive threats in the niche applications market for streaming audio and video -- thus chalking up another once-vibrant and competitive applications market to its ever-expanding monopoly," claims ProComp in a white paper published last week.

Microsoft had little trouble brushing this off at the weekend, giving BetaNews the standard 'innovation' line. In fact Microsoft had more trouble feigning interest.

ProComp admits that the broadside is based on news reports, rather than anything official. But it claims that the policy - if it is a policy - of steering users to WMP8 only though the latest OS is worse than the IE browser integration shenanigans.

Well, there are a few parallels. Media Player 7 is popularly viewed as the weakest link in the Windows Me chain, and probably provides 9x users with their biggest single incentive for Windows 98 users to stay where they are.

But Microsoft shrewdly considers media playback as a strategic priority, and doesn't want to be in the same position as it was post-IE4, when senior exec Jim Allchin notoriously asked: "I don't understand how IE's going to win. The current path is simply to copy everything that Netscape does packaging and product-wise," as he helpfully offered 'integration' as the killer punch.

And it's true that at height of the browser wars, Microsoft offered versions for Windows 3.x, shipped a reasonable Mac version and a hilarious Unix version, in addition to the integrated Win98 IE.

But where ProComp really loses the plot is with some of its other assertions. It claims that the freebie bundled apps are invariably used to drag users into using Microsoft server products.

Which is largely true, but the path cited: 'Outlook Express --> Exchange Server & Windows 2000 Server' stretches credulity. If a business decides on Exchange Server, it's not because the client is being bundled. And rather more obviously, the assertion that "Outlook Express is a slimmed down version of Outlook" is simply incorrect.

It's a case of re-fighting the last battle with the same ammunition. One of the Microsoft's more enduring arguments was that the provision of Netscape through Internet downloads or CD-ROMs meant that Redmond could not be found guilty of cutting off the air supply.

Following this argument to its natural conclusion, no software supplier with a market monopoly could be found find guilty of abusing its position, providing the competition offered its wares over the Internet. That's ludicrous, and yet ProComp devotes little attention to countering it. It ought to, as the Appellate Court bit on this in the recent hearing.

Microsoft's more obvious integration ploy in HailStorm has gone little remarked upon: ensuring the new web-based services pass through Microsoft's own servers.

This vertical integration doesn't so much target an individual competitor as much as it prevents any new competitors arriving on to a brand new market. Arguments about how 'open' Microsoft's protocols are in this case are redundant: it doesn't matter, when traffic is passing through Passport, and Microsoft is collecting a toll.

That's the case McNealy (whose Sun is one of ProComp's backers) has made, and one ProComp ought to be making, and it requires a little sophistication. But not too much, surely: it's the tollgate argument, that the FTC successfully used to block the Intuit purchase six years ago.

But going by ProComp's white paper, Larry and Scott ought to ask for their money back. ®

Related Link

ProComp's White Paper

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Preview redux: Microsoft ships new Windows 10 build with 7,000 changes
Latest bleeding-edge bits borrow Action Center from Windows Phone
Google opens Inbox – email for people too thick to handle email
Print this article out and give it to someone tech-y if you get stuck
Microsoft promises Windows 10 will mean two-factor auth for all
Sneak peek at security features Redmond's baking into new OS
UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan
'Veteran Unix Admins' fear desktop emphasis is betraying open source
Entity Framework goes 'code first' as Microsoft pulls visual design tool
Visual Studio database diagramming's out the window
Google+ goes TITSUP. But WHO knew? How long? Anyone ... Hello ...
Wobbly Gmail, Contacts, Calendar on the other hand ...
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
Redmond top man Satya Nadella: 'Microsoft LOVES Linux'
Open-source 'love' fairly runneth over at cloud event
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.